Film Screening of Someone You Love (Sept. 20, 2015)

The Sexual Health Alliance is hosting a free screening of Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic on Sunday, September 20th at 11am. The screening will take place at Filmscene and is sponsored by the Iowa Cancer Consortium and the Emma Goldman Clinic.

Immediately following the film there will be a panel discussion with local health experts where audience members can ask questions and learn about available local resources. We hope to see you there!

Evidence-based sex education more effective

The Gazette published a guest column on Sunday, September 14, 2014 written by the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties. A link to the column on The Gazette’s website is available here. Below is the full column:

Evidence-based sex education more effective

Sexually transmitted disease rates in Linn and Johnson counties are rising. I encourage parents and educators to consider evidence-based, comprehensive sexual health education for students that would help lower rates.

“Evidence-based” means the program has been proven to effectively show positive changes in students’ sexual behaviors. “Comprehensive” means the program is medically accurate, age-appropriate, theory driven and teaches abstinence (but is not abstinence-only) to help students develop interpersonal and communication skills.

According to the National Sexuality Education Standards, comprehensive programs have been shown to help youth delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use. Comparison studies have found comprehensive programs to be more effective than abstinence-only programs.

Many schools provide evidence-based programs, but gaps remain. The Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties Education Subcommittee conducted a survey of the public high schools to see whether evidence-based sexual health education was being taught. The committee found that sexual health education varies considerably. In some schools, sexual health education is part of a mandatory health class; for others, it is a single stand-alone session or part of an elective health class.

There are many ways parents and individuals can advocate for a comprehensive, evidence-based curriculum. These include knowing the official state and school system policies on sexual health education; learning what their student’s school offers and what training their teachers have had in sexual health education; speaking with administrators; and joining school health education committees and/or participating in school board meetings. Fortunately, our community has many resources and trained professionals at its disposal. We encourage parents and educators to reach out to the SHA at or

Seth Owens is board president of the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties. Comments:

Linn County STD Rates

The Gazette published an article on Friday, August 8th, 2014 written by Chelsea Keenan. A link to the column on The Gazette’s website is available here. Below is the full column:

Linn County STD rates higher than state, U.S.

Sexually-transmitted diseases account for the greatest proportion of infectious diseases in Linn County.

That’s according to a new report from Linn County Public Health that gives a countywide assessment of health status and health risks on everything from chronic and infectious diseases to homicide and suicide rates.

Linn County’s syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are 579 cases per 100,000 residents, which is higher than the state rate of 435.2 cases per 100,000 residents.

In 2012, there were 986 cases of chlamydia, 230 cases of gonorrhea and six cases of syphilis in Linn County. And while the gonorrhea rate in the United States has been decreasing from 2000 to 2012, it has been increasing in Iowa.

“We need to be aggressive as a community,” said Pramod Dwivedi, Linn County Public Health director. “It is profoundly important to take note of these and do something about it.”

Dwivedi said while Linn County Public Health does not have a campaign planned, it is working with the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn and Johnson Counties, a group of organizations and individuals working to educate the public about safe sex and distribute free condoms.

Dwivedi said the alliance has targeted populations at a greater risk of contracting an STD, including young adults, the gay community, those with substance abuse problems and those with multiple sexual partners.

Linn County Public Health also will address the rising STD rates in its community health improvement plan, an annual report that assesses the county’s health status and builds a plan to improve priority areas.

Age and gender disparities

Teenagers and young adults between 15 to 24 have significantly higher rates of STDs than those in older age groups. Statewide, teenagers account for 26 percent of chlamydia cases and 20 percent of gonorrhea cases, according to a report from Eyes Open Iowa, a Des Moines-based group that advocates for adolescent sexual health.

“It speaks to the work we need to do,” said Kristin Fairholm, executive director of Eyes Open Iowa. In 2012, the gonorrhea rate among teenagers 15 to 19 years old and adults 20 to 24 years old was 484 cases per 100,000 and 533.5 per 100,000, respectively.

Fairholm said it’s important that teens receive education about STDs, how to avoid them and how to treat them.

“This is vital health information,” she said.

Teenagers 15 to 19 years old accounted for 1,392 diagnosed chlamydia cases and 361 diagnosed gonorrhea cases in Linn County from 2008 to 2012, according to Eyes Open Iowa data.

This averages to 278 cases of chlamydia and 72 cases of gonorrhea each year, which gives Linn County the ninth-highest chlamydia rate and the third-highest gonorrhea rate in the state, Fairholm said.

Linn County Public Health wants to reverse these trends. The organization has set a goal to reduce by 10 percent by 2020 the number of teenagers and young adults with chlamydia and gonorrhea.

For chlamydia cases this translates to improving rates from 412 per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 371 per 100,000 residents, and for gonorrhea cases that means shrinking the number from 112 cases per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 101 cases per 100,000 residents.

What’s more, females have higher STD rates when compared with males — making up 70.2 percent of chlamydia cases and 66.1 percent of gonorrhea cases in Linn County, according to the public health department.

But Heather Meador, the county’s senior public health nurse, cautioned that these numbers don’t tell the whole story, as females are generally tested more frequently than males.

Because STDs are often asymptomatic, meaning infected individuals often don’t show any signs of the disease, they can go untreated.

Women frequently will find out they have chlamydia or gonorrhea when they go in for their yearly check up, are pregnant or to get birth control, she said.

“There’s also a fear factor for males,” Meador said. “The test used to be uncomfortable, so they would wait until they showed symptoms before they got tested.”

But STDs cause damage to the body in other ways, including joint pain or scarring of reproductive organs.

Fairholm agreed.

“It’s important to remember when looking at STD rates by gender, that physiological and social factors along with greater testing rates among females contribute to gender disparities in STD rates when comparing rates among females to males,” Fairholm said.

HPV Vaccine Vital Part of Prevention

The Gazette published a guest column on Sunday, April 21, 2014 written by the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties and the Linn County Immunization Coalition. A link to the column on The Gazette’s website is available here. Below is the full column:

HPV Vaccine Vital Part of Prevention

HPV-related cancers are on the rise in Iowa, as the latest Cancer in Iowa report from the University of Iowa highlighted. More women and men are developing HPV-related cancers, which include cervical, anal, and throat cancers. Most of the time HPV has no symptoms, so people do not know they have it.

The good news is that the HPV vaccine prevents many types of HPV-related cancers. The HPV vaccine saves lives.

The HPV vaccine protects women and men from getting the most common types of HPV. There are two different brands of the vaccine: Cervarix and Gardasil. Both kinds are safe and effective. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children between the ages of 11 and 12 be vaccinated with the three-dose series. The vaccine may be given to people ages 9-26.

To get the vaccine for you or your child, talk to your health care provider or call a clinic near you. Many health insurance plans cover the cost of the HPV vaccine, but check with your insurance plan to be sure. Children younger than 19 who are uninsured or Medicaid-eligible can get the vaccine through the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program.

An investigation from the Vaccine Safety Datalink of more than 600,000 people who got the HPV vaccine found no serious adverse events were more likely to occur in those who got the vaccine than those in comparison groups. The HPV vaccine works.

Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, stated, “The vaccine works. It works even better than we had hoped.” The HPV vaccine is safe, with more than 57 million doses given without identifying a problem. It’s effective at preventing cancer.

Two local coalitions, the Linn County Immunization Coalition (LCIC) and the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties (SHA), are working to increase the number of people who have completed the HPV vaccination series. LCIC seeks to protect the community through education and vaccination. LCIC will be offering HPV clinics throughout Linn County during 2014 and 2015. Additionally, LCIC will be producing educational material to help the community understand the safety and importance of the HPV vaccine.

For more information about either coalition, or if you need help finding the HPV vaccine, check out the coalitions on Facebook, email them or visit the coalitions’ websites:

Linn County Immunization Coalition website: or email:

Sexual Health Alliance of Linn and Johnson Counties website: or email: